HALAL CHICKEN – WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
One issue that continues to be raised regularly by consumers surrounds the production and supply of Halal chicken. Questions raised with the ACMF include where can I buy Halal chicken? where can I buy non-Halal chicken? why do chicken producers supply it? why don’t they produce or supply it? and, what does the production of Halal chicken entail?
There’s certainly a lot of confusion out there amongst consumers (and often a lot of emotion behind it), but also a lot of misconceptions about what Halal chicken means, how it is produced and what it means in terms of bird welfare, price and many other aspects.
I hope to be able to provide a bit more clarity in this blog about what Halal chicken in Australia really means.
WHAT IS HALAL CHICKEN?
Halal food is food which adheres to Islamic law, and is therefore acceptable for Muslims to eat. Halal food laws specify not only what types of foods and beverages are allowed to be eaten, but also how the food is prepared.
Therefore, Halal chicken has been processed and prepared according to Islamic law.
In practice, in Australia this means the following:
- a prayer is spoken at the commencement of slaughtering in the processing plant;
- the person supervising the slaughtering process must be of Muslim faith; and
- the processing plant has to be accredited by the local Muslim cleric.
If you actually went to a Halal accredited processing plant and witnessed the processing of chickens, you would not be able to distinguish it from what happens in a non-Halal plant. All birds are stunned prior to slaughter. For bird welfare and product quality reasons, all plants need to have at least one person supervising the slaughtering process, whether Halal or not, so staffing levels are identical whether producing Halal chicken or not.
Oh yes! And by the way, the way that the chickens are farmed and managed prior to their arrival at the processing plant is no different from any other chicken.
WHAT’S HALAL CERTIFICATION?
As inferred above, companies who want to be able to label all or some of their chicken as Halal pay a fee to have their processing plant accredited by their local Muslim certification body, and they may also be subjected to and pay for periodic audits to ensure that they are complying with the certification requirements.
Accreditation guarantees to those wanting to buy Halal chicken that nothing in the product has any forbidden ingredients and that the birds have been slaughtered according to Halal principles.
WHAT IS HALAL MEAT?
A Muslim butcher opened recently in our neighborhood and they sell halal meat. We wondered, what exactly does “halal” mean?
Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” In terms of food, it means food that is permissible according to Islamic law. For a meat to be certified “halal,” it cannot be a forbidden cut (such as meat from hindquarters) or animal (such as pork.)
The slaughter of a halal animal is called “zabihah” and there are certain guidelines to follow:
- Allah’s (God’s) name must be pronounced during slaughter.
- The instrument must be very sharp to ensure humane slaughter. The animal must be slit at the throat.
- The animal must not be unconscious
- The animal must be hung upside down and allowed to bleed dry. Eating blood is not halal.
- These steps must be accomplished by a Muslim or the People of the Book (Christian or Jew.) Many observant Muslims find kosher meat acceptable.
- The animal must have been fed a natural diet that did not contain animal by-products.
WHAT IS IT AND IS IT INHUMANE?
Controversy surrounds the strict rules governing the ways animals can be killed under Islamic law.
Halal meat is an essential part of the Muslim faith, but animal rights campaigners argue that religious slaughter causes the animals unnecessary suffering and should be banned.
Here are some of the facts and debates surrounding the emotive issue.
HOW IS HALAL MEAT PRODUCED?
Traditional, halal meat must be blessed before it is killed by hand by a Muslim butcher. The method of slaughter, known as zabiha, involves slitting the animal’s throat, windpipe and the blood vessels around its neck with a surgically sharp instrument. “The knife must not be lifted before the cut is complete and the cut must be below the Adam’s apple,” says the UK’s Halal Monitoring Committee. The blood is then allowed to drain from the body.
The area of religious law detailing the method of slaughter also contains information on how the animal must be treated during its life. It is not allowed to have been mistreated or caused any pain and must be provided with enough space to roam, clean water, food and fresh air.
ARE THE ANIMALS CONSCIOUS WHEN THEY ARE KILLED?
Some animals killed for halal meat in the UK are stunned electrically before their throats are slit. The method, known as “pre-stunned slaughter”. However, some Muslims think the practice is contrary to the specifications of zabiha and prefer to eat halal meat that has not been pre-stunned.
DO THE ANIMALS FEEL PAIN?
The question of whether religious slaughter is more or less humane than other forms is a matter of debate. Some countries, including Denmark and Poland, have banned it altogether, but Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to never outlaw the practice in Britain.
Shuja Shafi and Jonathan Arkush, writing in The Guardian, say religious slaughter is as humane as the alternatives. They argue that traditional British methods of stunning, using a captive bolt, gas or electricity, only paralyse the animal so it cannot move and “it is impossible to know whether the animal is feeling pain or not”.
In both Muslim and Jewish religious slaughter, the act of slitting the throat “stuns the animal”, they say, and “there is no delay between stun and subsequent death”.
Animal health experts and campaigners disagree. The British Veterinary Association calls for all animals to be effectively stunned before slaughter, while the Farm Animal Welfare Council says cutting an animal’s throat is “such a massive injury [that it] would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes”.
The RSPCA argues that killing animals without stunning them causes “unnecessary suffering”, while activist group Peta says the beasts “fight and gasp for their last breath, struggling to stand while the blood drains from their necks”.
HALAL MEAT AND SCIENCE
OPINION– HALAL MEAT AND SCIENCE
‘Dhabiha’ meat to be exact or what is commonly called ‘Halal Meat’ these days, is the meat derived after slaughtering the animal in accordance with Islamic principles. Halal and Dhabiha are two different things, for example; a pig even if cut in dhabiha way is still not halal and a halal animal can be dhabiha or non-dhabiha, but this is not the topic we are going to discuss here. So, the meat has to be of a halal animal and preferably dhabiha, unless there is no possibility.
In the Islamic way of slaughtering (dhabiha), the animal’s main arteries in the neck are cut swiftly with a sharp knife, without cutting the spinal cord and the animal is left to die, while the heart pumps out almost all the blood from the body. Muslims are very particular about the Halal meat and if they cannot find it, they usually eat eggs or fish for protein source, but don’t eat non-dhabiha meat. Strangely enough; even the Muslims who do not respect the Islamic restrictions regarding prohibition of alcohol or other moral codes, hardly ever go for non-dhabiha meat. When asked about this phenomenon, they say;”it’s a sin without the pleasure”.
Technically; Muslims are allowed to eat the food of the ‘people of the book’, but not the infidels. Quran calls Jews and Christians as ‘the people of the book’. Muslims also take the name of God while cutting the animal, which in fact they do before everything from drinking water, to bungee jumping. This is the reason why ‘Kosher’ meat is allowed to Muslims, as the Jews also follow pretty much the same protocol. The Orthodox Christians also take the name of God while cutting the animal, but they usually don’t follow the specific method of cutting the animal, explained in Islam. Here one thing should be kept in mind that, out of the popular meat sources like; sheep, goat, lamb, cow, buffalo, camel, turkey and chicken etc., the Pig meat (pork) is not allowed to Muslims. It is interesting that even the Jews don’t eat pork and the Kosher laws are very much similar to the Halal Laws in Islam.